Monday, October 11, 2010

Missing a Step

I used to hate my step-dad.
No matter what we did or how well it was done, it was never good enough.
When we were hurt, "Walk it off.", was his only reaction.
After we'd get whooped, "Boys don't cry.", is all that he'd say.
When we were tired, "Suck it up." or "Man up." were the most common words spoken.

I thought my dad was the meanest guy in the world.
I used to envy the boys who were raised by pampering mothers.
I used to envy those boys as they were given things for which I had to work.
I used to envy the coddled boys who never knew fear, shame, disappointment.
I used to envy those boys whose mothers always fixed their mistakes.
I used to envy those boys who were told that they were doing well, looked good, were smart, ... even though I never received any praise even though I was doing better.
I used to envy the confidence these boys had even though many just sucked.

But as I got older, I realized that these boys had no heart.
These boys were bullies until someone would actually fight back.
These boys did well when things were going well but they would often quit when things got rough.
These boys knew all the answers as long as someone was there to give them to them.
These boys were so fixated with looks that performance often took a back seat to appearance.
These boys were so fixated with looking strong because few really felt strong.
These boys were not to grow up to become men because many of them were too easily led by others who were better at imitating manhood.

I'm not saying that a single mother cannot raise a boy to become a man.
Only that the mother must ignore her instinct to coddle and shelter.
The mother must let the boy fail until he no longer fears failure.
The mother must encourage success to the point that the boy expects to succeed.
The mother must give praise when praise is due and punish when punishment is due.
The mother must be honest with her boy.
She should never tell him that he's done well even though she knows that he hasn't.
(But she should correct the boy's mistakes and teach him a better way to do things.)
A single mother must think like a man.

These days, most boys are soft, pampered, scrubs.
Many have inflated egos without ever having accomplished anything.
Most expect the same praise one would expect to give a three year old who finally learned to tie his own shoes whenever they've done something just as rudimentary.
"I take out the trash and clean my room.", a teenaged boy said after I told him that he was lazy.
What the...
Those are things that a five year old should be expected to do without praise, and this kid thought that he was actually doing something to be proud of?

Whatever happened to the rites of passage?
Why are so many men still trying to prove their manhood years after the expected time?
This is why so many boys play sports, join the Boy Scouts or join gangs.
Many are looking for discipline, structure and guidance.
If this is not provided in the home a boy will look for it wherever he can find it.

Back in the day we had unwritten rites.
Ones first fight won.
Ones first fight lost.
Ones first kiss.
Ones first (well, you know.)
And the list goes on..
All of these led up to the ultimate measure of manhood - respect from ones father.
When a boy was finally able to disagree with his father and his father listened instead of getting mad - the boy had become a man.

These days, I'm just as 'mean' to my young cousins as my father was to me.
I have no need to raise my voice when speaking to my young cousins.
They know that what I'm saying is something they need to hear.
They know that I'm trying to give them ways to win battles they will eventually have to fight instead of teaching them to hide or run from such battles.
They know that when they do well it is just something I expect from them.
That I will not tell them that they've done well when I know that they could have done better.
They know that I won't make excuses like, "That's okay a lot of people do/are/don't...', like their mothers or grandmothers do.
They know that I expect these boys to eventually become men.


Solomon said...

I had the best mother in the whole world! She never ever told me I did a good job if in fact that was not the case.

and she rode me hard so that I would learn the skills I needed to succeed in this world!

I would not be who I am today if it was not for my mother caring enough about me to make me take a beating sometimes in order to learn a lesson.

I am so grateful for my mother!

Anonymous said...

Bullies are often abused at home, it's not just spoiling that can create assholes. Severity without teaching actual values can sooo easily turn someone into a bully, because they come to think that it's all about who's the biggest dog in the pack. I would say that it's usually girl bullies who tend to be the more spoiled ones. What would you do if you had a daughter who got bullied? Would you teach her to fight back, or leave that on the mother?
ALL children need discipline, authority and guidance, not just boys. I've seen too many whiny, overbearing and entitled women to think otherwise. And all children need affection and warmth. That boy will not have to deal only with bullies and "manly" challenges, he will also have to perform in relationships and marriage in this day of age, and that's where many manly men fail big time. You're idealizing an old-school vision of manhood, but it has more than its share of shitty aspects.

Liam said...

once again in this post you hit the nail right on the head on so many levels... my mother was extra hard on me and my brothers and didnt get all soft until after we became adults when she saw the fruits from her dedication to raise us to be men. i love her so much for that.

uglyblackjohn said...

@ Anon - Yep, both boys and girls must be taught how to be adults.
Judging by income and education, Black girls are doing better than Black boys.
While mothers might be doing their jobs - where is the next generation of men?
If boys are never taught how to be men they will make too many mistakes learning on their own.
I agree that some refinement needs to take place while a boy learns to become a man - but this is usually done by the grandmother or aunts or older sisters.
The mother needs to be a mother and not a boy's friend.

I just had to post this because I see too any young men using women instead of taking care of them.
But this is all many boys have been taught - to rely on a woman to care care of ones needs and desires.
Many of the problems in Black communities could be mitigated if more men were more manly.

Reggie said...

The world could use more dads like yours. God knows our community could use millions more like yours.